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Are You a Picky Eater?

May 1 Picky Eater blog
Image by Debbie Digioia
If you’re a picky eater and would like not to be, there is hope for you! According to “Picky eating is in our genes” by Casey Seidenberg (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Health + Fitness, 12/20/16, p. E18), our taste buds may be more adaptable than we think, which was a surprise to me and good news for people who want to expand their palates.
David Katz, a Yale nutritionist, told U.S. News and World Report that “when taste buds can’t be with the foods they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with.” This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, because, as Seidenberg writes, “The original job of taste buds was to help us stay alive. Familiar foods were usually recognized as delicious because they were safe; our subconscious logic told us that if they didn’t kill us the last time we ate them, they wouldn’t kills us this time. New foods were potentially dangerous, so we didn’t find them as tasty until they became familiar.”
Based on this thinking, the more times we try to enjoy a food, the likelier the chance that we’ll find it pleasurable. This fact is important for those of you who are trying to eat more nutritionally. Your taste buds may have acclimated to high-sugar and high-fat foods. That you find them pleasurable and don’t wish to substitute low-sugar and low-fat foods for them does not necessarily mean that you’re addicted to the first group of foods. It just means that you’re habituated to eating them.
Here’s how the process called taste happens. “Signals from taste receptors on the tongue travel to the brain to tell us that we find something delicious and should eat more of it, or that we don’t and should stop. Our flavor preferences come from more than just these physical sensations, though; they also come from our mother and the foods she ate while she nursed us, the flavors we ate as children, and the foods we witness others eat and enjoy.” Moreover, “We are more likely to perceive food as delicious if we are happily sitting at a table with people we love rather than feeling stressed during a harried meal on the go.”
Are there foods you’d like to enjoy more for health or other reasons, but aren’t quite there yet? For me it’s beans. I would seriously love to love them, but don’t generally care for the taste or texture. After reading this article, I’m thinking that I haven’t given them a chance for long enough and am optimistic that if I eat more of them more often, I may grow to like them. Care to join me in being less picky and giving a here-to-fore disliked food more of a chance?